6 September 2012
The Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce, established in June to advise the government on reform of the VET sector, has published an interim report dealing specifically with the Queensland TAFE sector. In contrast to the Victorian model, the Taskforce recommends a measured and orderly transition to more market oriented VET delivery and funding. It’s not without controversy: it recommends a radical overhaul of industrial arrangements, which will draw the ire of unions, and the closure of 38 of the state’s 82 TAFE campuses, which will create some community anxiety and has already been criticised by the Commonwealth minister.
The report says the TAFE sector is hamstrung by archaic industrial relations agreements, underutilised infrastructure, high costs and low productivity:
TAFE institutes are at best at the margins of viability, with future expectations that planned increased contestability in the marketplace, along with strong competition from the private sector will see a need for greater levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
Key recommendations include:
- The establishment of a Queensland TAFE “parent entity, as a statutory authority, incorporating the 13 public TAFEs.
- A rationalisation of the TAFE system, involving mergers, to create 7 regional TAFE institutes (including metro, SkillsTec and Central Queensland, subject to the creation of CQU and CQIT as a dual sector institution) and the closure of a number of campuses. The recommendation that 44 of the state’s 82 campuses should be shut, including 10 of 15 in Brisbane and 11 of 26 in far north Queensland, has been slammed by Commonwealth minister Chris Evans who says it “would critically undermine the national training effort to train the skilled Australian workers we need to fill the jobs emerging in the economy”.
- New industrial relations arrangements. The report is particularly critical of industrial agreements with the TAFE’s teaching workforce who work a 36.2 hour week, of which no more than 21 can be spent teaching in any one week otherwise overtime is incurred.
- Adequate funding be provided to support the agreed transition of TAFE Queensland to a competitive entity within VET and it be quarantined for a predetermined period, separate to any non-contestable base funding and fully contestable government funding for delivery of VET.
1.0 Introduction and Context for Interim Report
1.1 The Taskforce endorses the need for a long term vision for Queensland’s VET sector and its final report will include advice and recommendations about the structure and design of the State’s VET sector to achieve the Government’s stated priorities and alignment with the National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform.
2.0 The Strategic Direction of TAFE Queensland
2.1 The role and purpose of TAFE Queensland into the future is to deliver skills and training that are responsive to the needs of industry and Queensland’s economy and, where identified, to deliver clearly defined Government priorities that cannot be otherwise delivered in a contestable market.
2.2 The base cost of the public provider, constructed on clearly defined and transparent parameters, should be identified as a priority.
2.3 Adequate funding to support the agreed transition of TAFE Queensland to a competitive entity within VET should be quarantined for a predetermined period, separate to any non-contestable base funding and fully contestable government funding for delivery of VET.
2.4 A new industrial arrangement for the TAFE workforce is essential in order to deliver gains in flexibility and productivity – as well as recognising the importance of sessional and casual staff to the TAFE workforce – to support the viability of TAFE Queensland.
2.5 The Government should pursue a revamped industrial relations arrangement which addresses at a minimum the following:
– the need for a wider spread of hours and contact time, including removal of the in-built systemic barriers to evening classes
– the current practice of non-attendance time becoming de facto additional annual leave
– implementation of industry competitive overtime arrangements
– the ability of management to have full discretion in engaging casual staff
– greater class size flexibility.
2.6 A range of strategies will be required to substantially reduce TAFE Queensland’s current infrastructure footprint and increase utilisation of assets to ensure longer term viability.
2.7 A strategic asset management strategy be immediately set in train under a central point of Government in consultation with relevant stakeholders and subject to appropriate governance and oversight. This strategy should address:
– value-added solutions to the management of existing assets and examination of leased and/or shared facilities
– increased and optimal utilisation rates and accompanying incentives and capital charges
– consolidation of existing TAFE campuses
– strategic disposal of surplus infrastructure
– the percentage split between return of proceeds from sales of surplus TAFE infrastructure to consolidated funds versus ensuring sufficient, ongoing, capital funding to sustainably manage and maintain the asset base over the longer term
– a range of strategies for the ownership, management and maintenance of the future stock of public training assets including consideration of a separate public or private entity with specialist skills and expertise in infrastructure management being charged with the efficient management of the assets
– appropriate third party access strategies for public training infrastructure
– new asset acquisitions or developments consistent with training delivery models adopted in the new business model
– standalone vs strategic partnering opportunities – with business, industry, other agencies or RTOs and or schools.
2.8 A TAFE Queensland parent entity be established outside the current Department structure as a Statutory Body, in a way that provides a potential future opportunity to transition to a more commercially focused organisational form.
2.9 The parent entity for TAFE Queensland be driven by a commercially focused Board constituted by and accountable directly to the Minister responsible for training, and drive a business focus to TAFE Queensland’s
structure, locations, operations and supporting products and services.
2.10 The parent entity should be managed by a CEO, broadly equivalent to aDirector-General.
2.11 A rationalised structure of TAFE institutes under a TAFE Queensland parent entity which could have the following characteristics as recommended by the Department of Education, Training and Employment:
– Far North Queensland Region (from 26 to 15 campuses)
– Fraser and Sunshine Coast Region (from 13 to 8 campuses)
– Western Corridor Region (from 16 to 11 campuses)
– Brisbane Metropolitan Region (from 15 to 5 campuses)
– Skills Tech Australia (from 6 to 2 campuses)
– Gold Coast Region (from 6 to 3 campuses).
The Taskforce noted that Central Queensland could form a seventh region, subject to the separate consideration by Government of a proposed merger of the Central Queensland Institute and CQ University.\
3.0 Transitioning to a new TAFE Queensland
3.1 A well-resourced and strongly-led Reform Implementation Unit, with appropriate access to external expertise, be established to drive the program of work outlined in this Interim Report and lead the change
management process to transition TAFE Queensland.
3.2 A new TAFE Queensland parent entity should be set up and begin operating by 1 July 2013.
3.3 Upfront investment will be required over the short to medium term in TAFE Queensland in order to realise longer term efficiencies and increases in productivity expected from implementation of the Taskforce
4.0 VET in Schools (VETiS)
4.1 There is a clear role for VETiS into the future, within a strictly applied framework that supports achievement of the Government’s economic goals however Government’s VRG investment in VETiS needs to be focused
on employment outcomes and aligned to the skill needs of industry.
4.2 A new funding framework for VETiS should reflect the categories of ‘Exploration’, ‘Education’ and ‘Employment’, with the principle that VRG funding would only support the third category of ‘Employment’, that is the delivery of occupational specific skills and knowledge to the technical standard required in the workplace, in areas of priority identified by industry.
4.3 Pathways to support student transitions through ‘Exploration’ and ‘Education’ categories should continue to be made available to young people and funded outside VRG.